It is now painfully clear that the federal government is incapable of appearing competent at the task of preventing terrorism. Mind you, it’s not that the government is incapable of actually preventing terrorism (well, okay, it can’t prevent ALL terrorism, but there hasn’t been a major successful attack since September 11), it’s just that it does a respectable job while managing to come off as if someone slipped up and hired Gary Condit’s PR team.
The most recent and most damning piece of evidence on this count is of course the color-coded terrorism alert system unveiled yesterday by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge (what he’d pay to nix the “former” these days). The system is an absolute marvel. Somehow the good folks over at the Office of Homeland Security got wind that Americans were freaked out by the constant vague terror alerts and decided that people would rather be perplexed than scared — which does, actually, seem vaguely reasonable.
Here’s how the system theoretically works. There are five colors (green, blue, yellow, orange, and red) comprising some sort of perverted stoplight. Green means a low risk of terrorist attack, blue is a general risk, yellow is an “elevated condition,” orange means a high risk of attack, and red means a “severe risk.”
Got that? Pop quiz, hot shot: There’s a purple terror alert — what do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!? It’s just a trick question, of course. No matter what color the terrorism alert system is at, you don’t really do anything.
But of course you’re going to want to do SOMETHING, so here are some suggestions (straight from the newly established Shadow Office of Homeland Security) for what to do at any of the five levels of terror alertness:
Green: Eat cheese-doodles in your underwear. Elect southern Democrats to the White House. Ignore it when said southern Democrats either (a) report seeing giant swimming rabbits or (b) consort with giant kneeling interns.
Blue: Eat cheese-doodles in your underwear. Peer out the window suspiciously every half-hour. Fall asleep watching reruns of “Xena: Warrior Princess.”
Yellow (our current status): Do everything faster before the alert turns red. Carbo-load. Elect southern Republicans. Wonder why the hell that Dell guy is suddenly so popular. Apply ice to Ted Koppel’s bruised ego.
Orange: Elect only Texan Republicans. Call “America’s Most Wanted” if you see a guy with so much as a tan. Generally freak out.
Red: Resume electing southern Democrats — you’re a goner anyway.
If none of these activities make you feel like you’ve done enough to help protect against a potential terrorist threat, you could also heed John Ashcroft’s call to join your neighborhood watch. Even if you don’t catch any actual terrorists yourself, you and your fellow neighborhood watchers (no, not the perverts, the law-abiding ones) stand a fairly good chance of killing Osama bin Laden — when he chokes to death laughing with goat coming out his nose.
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